The short version is I've been very busy over the past few months, and highly stressed during the past couple of weeks in particular. One contract had me scripting, rigging, and animating characters in Maya. My latest contract has using Esoteric Spine to rig 2D puppets, and may keep me busy for the next few months!
Before the Spine job started, I had fully thumbnailed my next major comic chapter. Now, I have no idea when I'll have the time to fully draw it. I'm lucky if I have the time or the energy to draw any pinups, a comic would be too much right now. The question is, how much longer do I put it off?
The good news, Daisy-wise, is that I may have most of this week off. I have some ideas I can work on, it's just a question of how many of those I can finish before this contract resumes... of course, the first challenge is simply picking up my stylus, opening Sketchbook, and getting started.
After posting the first page, asked what Daisy's werewolf form might be. I couldn't resist - "A corgi, of course!". I was joking, but the idea was too cute not to draw.
Daisy's parents were last-minute additions to the second page. Like corgi-Daisy, Lily's reaction was something I couldn't resist, although it made it more difficult to fit everything onto the page. I hadn't bothered to sketch a page layout before drawing any of the panels.
Since my one-page gag was now a multi-page story, it needed an ending. More importantly, it needed an ending that would sweep the entire thing under the rug. One of my rules - usually in regards to pinups - is that nothing is canon unless I put it in a comic. Since wolf-Mary isn't supposed to be canon, I'd backed myself into a corner. Having the whole thing be one of Violet's ideas seemed like the best fit, even if it's too close to the "it was all a dream" cliche. It also gave me a chance to use another gag I'd been sitting on - Mary's info-dump, and Daisy & Vi's reaction. The downside is that that bit was meant to be the ending to a whole different story...
In between the second and third pages, an Android update slightly broke Sketchbook Pro, forcing me to upgrade to the newer app. The new features are nice, but one thing keeps the app from being perfect. Details are on Tumblr.
I was hoping to draw more of corgi-Daisy before posting the final page, but ran out of time. An animation job came my way just as I was finishing the first page, and it kept me busy for most of the month. Now it looks like I'll be busy with more work for at least the next couple of months, so those corgi-Daisy ideas may have to wait until next Halloween...
Corgi-Daisy isn't the only casualty of my sudden influx of contract work. Pretty much all of my plans for the next three months are now sidelined. The "Dark Corner" follow-up starring Candice, finishing the face rig on Daisy's 3D model and starting on her chest... I'm glad to have paying work, but my brain is getting blue balls.
A quick-ish update - an animation job has kept me busy all month, so my drawing plans have been cut short. It's a small miracle I was able to get two comic pages out (and I'm working on the third)! Still, there are some fun ideas that I've run out of time for, and that I don't want to save for next year...
Since I rarely have any November/Thanksgiving-themed ideas, I'm just going to keep my Halloween going for the next month! I mean, if companies can start selling Christmas merch in August, then why not?
That said, November won't be a picnic, either - ANOTHER contract has come my way, just as the last one ended!
The short verion is it's been a rough couple of years. 2016 was bad, and 2017 looks worse in some ways. Last summer I fell into a depression that lasted several months, and my thoughts became pretty dark at one point or another. I worked my way through it as best as I could, but that combined with my juggling of multiple projects lead to burnout a couple of months ago. I still feel like I'm recovering from the entire year.
Lack of animation work has been one of the biggest factors. Freelancing is my primary source of income, but lately there just hasn't been much work. When a contract does come my way, too often it disappears right before it's signed. Last year I had maybe three small contracts, and so far this year I've only had one. And in my experience, if I don't have a contract by the end of September, then there may not be one until the following February. I should be looking for a full-time studio job, but relocating isn't an option at the moment, for personal reasons I won't go into.
Patreon has kept me afloat, more or less. It doesn't cover everything, though. Earlier this year I'd been thinking about getting a new, faster, more stable computer, but simply couldn't afford it. Then I ended up having to spend that money anyway on some emergency dental work. So now if my computer breaks, I'm screwed. A word of advice if you have health insurance - pay that little bit extra for dental coverage! It'll pay for itself just from the routine cleanings, and it'll save you a lot of money if/when you need a root canal or a crown.
Advertising my Patreon more - a LOT more - might help, but that might be easier if my campaign were for just one thing. For too long it's been fairly broad, covering pinups, comics, 3D, and anything else I might be working on. It doesn't feel right to advertise pinups & comics, and then take a month off to work on Daisy's 3D rig, and I can't advertise my 3D work, because that's too long-term.
Commissions are something I definitely should have done more of this year, but let's be real - it's difficult to want to draw for anyone else, when you barely want to draw for yourself. But I did finally open my commission list to patrons earlier this month, which has kept me busy. At the very least it's a nice change of pace from random people asking for commissions, then saying they can't afford it!
For my 3D work, the desire just isn't there right now. I'd started the year wanting to finally finish Daisy's rig, but there are too many things I've had to both teach myself and write tools for along the way. That rigging and scripting give me art block only makes things worse. At different points I'll think of other projects to sort of keep my engine going - modeling other characters, experimenting with new tools or techniques, making a game, etc. - but this time I only burned myself out quicker. Now I'm taking a much-needed break from 3D at least until my next comic is finished, and I don't know how long that will take.
So anyway, if I seem a little quiet or inactive, there are reasons, and the ones I've listed here are just the cliff notes.
Last year I'd developed my own tool for rigging characters in Maya. It took a few months of coding and testing, but in the long run it'll save me from having to build character rigs by hand. Once all the blanks are filled in, it takes roughly a minute to build the rig, as opposed to days or even weeks! Unfortunately that script did nothing for characters' faces, so I've been working on some new tools over the past several months. Now, it's starting to pay off.
Unlike my previous rigs, which used morph targets for the facial expressions, this time I'm using a bone-based rig. One small problem - I didn't know how to build it. The only thing I knew for sure was that the rig needed to be relatively easy to use, but with multiple layers to allow for finer control. I'm learning as I go, which makes it all more intimidating.
Something else that's changed recently, is how I'm approaching Daisy's rig in general. For most of April, I'd been too busy for any personal work. At one point I drew up a list of all the things Daisy's model would need before she'd be 100%, and that list ended up being so extensive that I wouldn't even have known where to begin. I almost had a panic attack! The next day, I decided to treat her more like a piece of software, with the to-do list broken down into 10 incremental "point-releases".
Earlier this month, I'd completed v0.1 of Daisy's rig - the body, and the very basics for the face. Now I'm working towards v0.2 - squashing any bugs that were found in v0.1, and expanding her face rig. With v0.3, the goal will be to finish the rest of the face rig. v0.4 will finally add her breast rig! With v0.5 and beyond, it should be down-hill...
...so when will Daisy actually be ANIMATED?? That's difficult to answer. If all goes well, she'll be ready for a test-drive once v0.2 is finished. Getting to v0.4 will be tricky, because the breast rig I have in mind will take some effort to build and test. 1.0 is probably far enough away that I don't even want to think about. Better to focus on what's in front of me.
First up, thanks to upfront billing and Paypal now supposedly working with NSFW campaigns, I've started posting uncensored pics to my page again, instead of stashing them offsite. The offsite approach was a necessary evil to combat thieves & bots, but it made things more difficult for honest patrons. I'm still maintaining an offsite archive, though, so past images are in one easy-to-find place! New patrons receive this link after they pledge.
In the spirit of making things easier, I'm also posting the higher-res image packs directly to my page! My old method of sending out Dropbox links wasn't so bad, except in cases where a pledge was declined but fixed later in the month. With this new approach, the image pack is ready for downloading as soon as their pledge clears! These packs are only available for one month, though - come September, July's pack will be removed, and August's will be posted!
One unfortunate change is that I'm slowly closing down my commission tiers, at least temporarily. They've given me plenty of fun things to draw, but lately it's been difficult to keep up with them in addition to my personal and freelance work.
Content-wise, it's still a little bit of everything - pinups, comics, and 3D whenever I can make time for it. Currently I'm aiming for a bi-weekly schedule for my comic. I was hoping to update it weekly, but that started to get overwhelming when combined with everything else. Bi-weekly gives me more room to breathe, and also allows more time to draw pinups and plan upcoming pages. Weekly comics could become a milestone goal, but for now I'm going to see how this schedule works out.
Thanks for reading!
The next time I have a big contract coming up, I should just keep my mouth shut until the work actually starts. The animation job that was going to keep my busy throughout July and August? The contract that was just signed, and I would have started on this coming Tuesday? Game's already cancelled. There's more potential work coming my way in a couple of weeks, but I've heard that song many times before...
On the bright side, I guess I now have time to work on my comic, instead of the filler images. I also have time to resume work on my WoW models, and maybe animate them!
In the meantime, I'll be doing a series of filler images to offer more info on my characters, or even just to illustrate scenes that would be cut for time or pacing if I were making a film.
Here's one that might be, though - can anyone recommend a good environment/texture artist, who's open to commissions? Whenever my diner model is finished, I'd like it to have a nice painterly look, at the very least so I can use it for my comics. For reference, I'm thinking Disney, Warcraft, and Wildstar.
The alternative is I do it myself, relying more on the shaders than the textures at first, and bake out new textures for faster renders. I might be able to manage that, but it'd be one more thing on my already too-long to-do list...
So in the span of a week, I went from having no outside work, to potentially having too much!
The timing is nutty for a few reasons. Before this modeling gig, all I had to worry about was getting this month's Patron commissions finished. After those, my main priority was going to be my next/overdue comic. Then of course there's my Daisy model, and my rigging scripts. I've also been working on some Warcraft models, with the intent of animating porn as another potential source of income, and possibly as an escape from the video game industry...
Pretty much everything other than the comic is now on hold. With my free time suddenly limited, I need to be more focused than I have been...
My latest freelance job has me seriously considering offering 3D commissions. It wouldn't be cheap, though - since it's the same work that I do professionally, and takes a lot of time, I'd be charging the same rates.
Just as an example, let's say I charge $250 per work-day. My tauren update took roughly 3 days to reshape and add extra details/features, so that would be $750 just for the model. The gnome was much easier, taking only one day to reshape, although she's not done yet. Updating the tauren's skin weights took another day. Rigging might be tied in with the skinning, as long as no custom code is needed.
But those are examples where I was modifying existing low-poly models. A completely custom model could easily take a full week, while skinning might take an additional week!
The same rules apply to animation - even a simple loop can take a day or two to animate.
In any case, an estimate would be given. If you accept, the first day's payment would be due up front. It's also important to keep in mind that the estimate is just that - an estimate. The final cost depends on how much time the job actually requires. Final payment would be due before delivery.
Another requirement would be model sheets - at the very least, I would need front and side drawings to model from. Ideally, 3/4 and back views would also be included. The features of these drawings also need to line up, so be sure to use a ruler! If you need me to draw this model sheet for you, that's an additional day's work.
A cheaper alternative might be if you just want your Warcraft character posed & rendered using my redesigned models. In that case, I might charge the same as a 2D commission. And instead of a single image, it could be rendered from several angles, and even a turntable animation. One limitation to this is it would have to be a model that I've already completed. If it's a model that I need to redesign, then we're back to the daily rate.
My core character rigging script - which I'd been working on for over a month now - is more or less feature-complete as of a few days ago. There's still some minor tweaks to be made, but the important stuff is there. I can't tell you how relieved I am to have this mostly finished, partly because it's pulled me away from my characters for too long, but also because I wanted it done before my next contract started.
Speaking of contract work - the latest one I'd been waiting for isn't happening, at least for me. I was only signed up to do skin weights, but apparently the characters don't require much work on that front, so my services aren't required. I don't know that this is the longest I've gone without any significant contract work, but it's getting close. In the meantime, I may open myself up for more commissions, even 3D-animated ones, but more on that in a bit.
Last week my Patreon campaign reached its $500 milestone, but it turns out that was due to bullshit pledges. The thieves have gotten trickier - instead of their bots pledging at certain intervals to the top tier, they now pledge any time their targets post anything, and only to the minimum tier that that post is available to. Here's hoping Patreon make upfront billing available for everyone, soon. In the meantime, my "Ask Your Waitress" blog is on hold until the milestone is reached for real.
With Patreon being my main source of income at the moment, I've been thinking about expanding the commission tiers. At the very least I could add more slots to the current tiers, but I'd also been thinking about adding new ones. The new ones could easily backfire, though, because if they were all taken I'd basically end up spending the majority of each month working on commissions, rather than my own content.
3D-animated commissions are something else I'm considering. Since this means animating characters from, say, Warcraft, the question is how do I stand out? Modding the hell out of the models might do it. And I don't just mean cleaning the models up or adding anatomy - I mean reshaping them to fit my style. At least for WoW characters, this only adds a couple of days' work. And this will also be a nice way to further test my rigging scripts, and even figure out how to script the face rigs!
My Patreon campaign has just passed its $500 milestone! That is, assuming the pledges that put it over are real… fingers crossed!
For this milestone, I’ve created an “ask your waitress” blog. Have a question for Daisy, Rose, Violet, or even aunt Mercy? Ask away! Schedule permitting, I’ll draw responses to the best and most entertaining questions!
I'd also gotten a bit side-tracked in the past week, what with my nieces being down for their spring break and all. I was hoping to have Daisy's skin weights and possibly even her core rig finished, but the most I was able to accomplish was some Maya scripting. Hopefully I can get her core rig finished this week, in between commissions.
Once Daisy's core rig is finished, my next step may be to animate her to test everything out. While her breasts are now modeled, until they're rigged I'll be using the flat-chested version for these test animations. What's strange is I no longer have to worry about whether my idea for her breast rig will work, because I've seen it in action - Adeptus Steve recently demoed a new breast rig for his character on his Picarto channel, and it was almost exactly what I had planned! It may be a while before I implement this rig, however. I'm expecting some contract work soon, and I fear that if I have to shelve this rig while it's in progress, then I'm not going to remember where I left off when I do get back to it...
For $25 you get one character inked, and for $50 you can get either two inked characters or one in color. Or if you're interested in two characters in color, there's no stopping you from pledging $100... just be careful not to pledge to my $75 bot-catcher tier!
Currently Patreon is the easiest way to commission me, partly because Paypal is increasingly becoming a pain in the ass for this sort of thing. Also if you're only interested in a single commission rather than one every month, remember to edit or delete your pledge before the end of February!
Want to know what I will or won't draw? Check out my commission rules! If you're still uncertain, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes it also depends on my mood and current stress levels.
As I type this, there's one slot left in my $50 tier, which can get you either two inked characters or one in color. As we get closer to the end of the month, some spots could open up in this or the $25 tier, so keep an eye on them!
There's also my $10 tier, which gets you a single-character sketch. This is a one-time deal, though, basically an introductory rate. Further commissions will be priced at my patron rate, which is still cheaper than non-patron commissions, and you can use your accumulated pledges as credit. Further commissions also have to wait for the list to open, though.
I had thumbnailed a cute gag for Daisy and Rose back in October... It started as a pinup, but quickly morphed into a short comic. The only problem was that I didn't have a beginning for it. I figured I might draw it anyway, this month, with or without a beginning.
The other day, something clicked. This month's voted image will have Daisy and Rose in Christmas costumes. While brainstorming poses, I ended up filling in the blanks that would make this image an opener for that comic. Now the trick will be getting it all done in the time available.
So, awesome - there might be a new comic this month!
SUCK - Daisy's 3D model will have to wait a bit longer.
Two other big additions are $25 and $50 tiers, offering monthly inked commissions of one and two characters, respectively. At the very least, these new tiers could be useful for folks who want to commission me, but don't want to wait for me to get my head out of my ass and open the list.
Speaking of commissions, I've updated a page on my website with all of my info and rules. It could probably use some trimming, but on the other hand I think it helps to be thorough. One change I've made, since half the commissions I get tend to involve Daisy, is that my own characters are currently half-price. As much as I enjoy getting paid to draw my girls, sometimes it doesn't seem fair, especially when some of them are pics I might've drawn on my own eventually. This rule may not apply to Monique though, since requests involving her tend to be much more difficult... I may have to think on this one.
So anyway, what do I have in mind? For starters, I'm thinking of offering one-time character sketches to the $10 tier. Another possibility would be the source PSD and AI files for my finished images.
I'm also planning two additional tiers - $25 and $50, which would offer monthly single and two-character commissions, respectively. These would be cheaper than my patron commission rate, which is already cheaper than my normal rate. My main concern is that I might get overwhelmed at some point, so these tiers will have a limited number of slots. It'll also be a trial-run, at first - if it turns out that I can't keep up with these commissions, my usual content, AND my freelance work, then these tiers may need to be removed, even if only temporarily.